Posted by: Jo | August 16, 2013

Learning To Forgive, Learning To Be Forgiven

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (Isaiah 43:25)

image My Sunday school days are a bit vague, but some of the Bible stories, especially from the Old Testament, are vivid in my mind. The story of Joseph is one of them. I can see myself carefully coloring in that beautiful coat of many colours that the Sunday school teacher had prepared for us. How did they photo copy in those days?! Perhaps the poor lady had to trace a picture for each one of us from a book. I remember how horrified we were at those bad brothers being so mean to Joseph to throw him into a pit and then sell him. Just as we were relieved that he was bought by a good man, he lands in gaol. We begin to wonder if God loves him. At last God delivers him and he finally has a chance to get back at those mean brothers of his, but wait, he doesn’t! He forgives them. What is wrong with him? He finally has the chance to pay them back for all the bad things they did to him, but instead he saves their lives and blesses them with good things.

The story of Joseph is such an eye opener to what it means to forgive and to be forgiven. On the one hand we have Joseph spending many years learning how to forgive. We don’t know the conversations he had with God about all the injustices he had suffered, but we do know he did not forget the powerful God he served. When he is finally is brought before Pharaoh, he says this when Pharaoh asks him if he can interpret dreams;

“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”” (Genesis 41:16)

Later Pharaoh recognises that Joseph has been specially chosen by God;

“…Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” (Genesis 41:38)

We also know that he was able to forgive his brothers.

“Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.” (Genesis 45:14 – 15)

imageOn the other hand we have the brothers who do not deserve to be forgiven, but because of the spirit of God, now firmly planted in Joseph, they are totally exonerated. Strangely enough they cannot believe or accept the forgiveness so freely given to them.

“When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?”” (Genesis 50:15)

I think many of us can to relate to the brother’s fear. In our minds we believe the Lord loves us unconditionally, but how can we forgive ourselves? Many of us can be crippled in our Christian walk by not accepting the beautiful gift of forgiveness, hanging on to past errors, never quite believing the Lord has promised us he has forgotten them. Always going back over the past. Always feeling (like Joseph’s brothers) that eventually some form of retribution will follow. We need to take these words to heart;

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12)

image The wonderful examples of forgiveness and being forgiven recorded in Joseph’s story are a forerunner of our Saviour’s love for us. We need to incorporate them into our daily lives. We need to learn to forgive, but we also need to learn to accept forgiveness and when we can, suddenly it is so much easier to forgive others.

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

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